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May 19, 2011

City Council rejects bus route changes in county for new Martha Jefferson Hospital

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DailyProgressArea transit planners are searching for another way to extend bus service to the new Martha Jefferson Hospital on Pantops after the Charlottesville City Council rejected a proposal to do so by altering two city bus routes.

“It [will] take some planning and some choice-making to get a bus there because it’s not a current destination,” said Bill Watterson, director of Charlottesville Area Transit. “County staff has indicated that getting service to Martha Jefferson is a high priority.”

David Benish, the county’s chief of planning, said the county “would like service to the hospital, to the shopping center, to the Social Security office and to [residential neighborhood] Wilton Farms.”

“But it doesn’t appear that we can serve all four of those, so we have to figure out what needs to get cut to maintain the headways.”

Source: Connetics Group (Click to enlarge)

The rejected proposal was contained in a transit development plan prepared by Connetics Transportation Group and commissioned by the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation.

The plan, which is required in order for transit agencies to receive state funds, outlines how service might be expanded over the next six years to serve emerging needs.

Download Download Connetics Transportation Group's Transit Development Plan


“One of the things that stood out was that Route 1A that serves the Woolen Mills neighborhood and Route 2A that serves the Locust Grove neighborhood were the two poorest performing routes in CAT’s day-time route system,” said James Baker from Connetics.

Baker proposed the city reroute portions of those routes to provide service every 30 minutes to the hospital, which will relocate to Pantops in August. Baker said those stops would still be within half a mile of other stops on the realigned routes. However, many users of the existing services objected to the recommended changes.

“I and many others ride the 2A bus,” said Jeanette Kants of Park Street. “Please do not eliminate this route. Even if does have low ridership, a lot of us depend on it to get to work, go shopping, [and to] get to the doctor’s office.”

Mayor Dave Norris said he could not support a reduction in service in Woolen Mills.

“There are a lot of low-income and elderly residents over there … for whom even a half-mile [walk] is a major barrier,” Norris said.

Connetics’ plan, which does not commit CAT to making any changes, also proposed an extension of service to Mill Creek in Albemarle County, as well as service to Hollymead within six years.

Councilor Satyendra Huja said he was generally disappointed with Connetics’ plan.

“All I see is that you’re reducing more and more service in the city … and adding a great deal of service into the county,” Huja said. “Supposedly we are the primary agent and primary consumer of the service and it seems like most of the new growth is in going into the county.”

However, Councilor David Brown said it was in the city’s interest to promote expanded service into the county.

“[That’s] what can directly help keep more cars off of city roads and can help city residents have access to more jobs without having to have cars,” Brown said.

After specifying they would not implement the recommendation to realign the two routes to serve Martha Jefferson, the council voted 3-1 to endorse the plan, with Huja dissenting. The plan is advisory and does not commit CAT to making any route changes.

Watterson said the council’s reluctance to alter Routes 1A and 2A means it needs to work with the county on finding a way to expand transit to Martha Jefferson Hospital.

Pantops is currently served by Route 10 during the day and Route 24 during the night.

Albemarle pays for a portion of that service on a contract basis, according to Watterson. The Albemarle supervisors will view a presentation on the plan at their meeting on June 1.

A spokeswoman for Martha Jefferson said the hospital has no position on bus service to the hospital.

“Martha Jefferson conducted a survey of all current employees last year and 1 percent of those who responded (or 13 people) indicated they currently used public transit,” said spokesperson Jennifer McDaniel in an email. “We can’t say for sure how this might change when the new hospital opens.”


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